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US senators see aid to Israel staying firm despite cuts

Source: Reuters - Thu, 20 Mar 2014 21:17 GMT
Author: Reuters
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(Corrects aid figures in 1st and 3rd paragraphs)

JERUSALEM, March 20 (Reuters) - The United States will continue providing Israel with defence aid after a current package worth some $3 billion a year expires in 2017, and the grants are unlikely to wane despite Washington belt-tightening, two U.S. senators said on Thursday.

Kelly Ayotte and Joe Donnelly, who are members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, visited Israel to confer on security issues like missile defence, on which the allies have partnered.

The previous U.S. administration signed a 10-year deal with Israel in 2007 granting it $30 billion, most of which must be spent on American defence products.

Talks on a new package were already under way, said Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican.

"Obviously the final negotiations have not been worked out but I do not expect that our commitment and work with Israel will diminish," she told Reuters.

Politically popular U.S. aid to close ally Israel has held steady despite cuts to a wide range of other programmes, including reducing the size of the U.S. army to its lowest level since before World War Two and shrinking spending in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

Donnelly, a Democrat from Indiana, noted Israel's rare stability in a turbulent Middle East.

"I think there is understanding among the people across our country about the value of the relationship with Israel, not only just personal and friendship-wise, but also the importance of having Israel as an ally in this region," he said.

"And so I think that the people of our country feel that every dollar spent on this is worth it, is well spent." (Writing by Dan Williams; editing by Andrew Roche/Ruth Pitchford)

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